NSBA is saddened to report that NSBA Hall of Fame member Tom Chown died Monday, January 20, 2020.
Tom was born into a horse family in California. His grandfather, Reno Chown, rode and trained Palomino horses, and was instrumental in adding the first Palominos into the Pasadena Rose Parade. Tom’s father, Clarence Chown, also trained horses and built Western movie sets in Hollywood before establishing Rawhide Ranch in Bonsall, California.
Tom and his half-brothers Leonard and Troy Davis and Robert Chown grew up breaking wild horses on a daily basis, that Clarence trailered into Rawhide Ranch in a double-decker trailer. Tom was already training horses for the public by age 14. A keen observer, Tom was influenced by many of California’s training professionals, from Bobby Ingersol, Ronnie Richards and Bill Ink to John Hoyt and Les Vogt, to Lynn McARthur and Greg Whalen. Perfection, cleanliness and organization were Tom’s trademarks.
Tom’s first outside training experience occurred when he built a barn at Jerry Vawter’s Southern California home. There, he learned conformation and pedigrees from Jerry as well as honed his craft at training. Jerry convinced Tom to show at his first Quarter Horse Show, and Tom first saw trainers Jerry Wells, Tommy Manion, Larry Sullivant and Matlock Rose at the Sun Country Circuit. Never knowing a stranger, Tom became great friends with them all.
After buying and selling horses with Larry Sullivant and Tommy Manion and realizing the benefits of a central location, Tom created Tom Chown/Willowtree Farm in Texas with his future wife, Carrie Oakley. Tom will forever be linked to AQHA stallion Hotrodders Jet Set, whom he had helped Tommy Manion train. Tom decided to purchase the stallion with the help of clients Vic and Shirleyne Clotts. Tom was also associated with AQHA stallions Radical Rodder, Protect Your Assets, Triples, Hot Impulse, Dont Skip Zip, Eternal Impression, Simply Hot, Hot Pretense, Hot Attraction and Green With Invy.
Tom won All American Quarter Horse Congress championships and reserve championships in Reining, Western Riding and Western Pleasure, along with training and coaching champions in Horsemanship, Trail and Western Pleasure, as well as numerous futurity wins and AQHA, PHBA and APHA world champions. He showed My Bodys Hot to a unanimous AQHA world championship in Two Year Old Western Pleasure in 1990, as well as broke, trained and showed Radical Rodder for Dianne Chilton Harper and Dr. Howard Harper, earning an AQHA bronze award in Two Year Old Western Pleasure at the 1993 AQHA World Championship Show, the highest placing stallion in the class.
After being approached by NSBA founders Leo Barbera and Walter Hughes about the formation of the National Snaffle Bit Association in 1983, Tom dove into helping the founders establish the association’s rules, fundamentals and education of specialized judges, trainers and exhibitors. Throughout his life, Tom continued to observe the younger generation as they established new styles and techniques of training. Tom conducted numerous training clinics in Horsemanship, Showmanship, Western Pleasure and Western Riding around the world through Tom Chown Horsemanship, a business he created in 2014 and was based in Holland, Michigan. In addition to his contributions to the industry through his leadership, training and coaching endeavors, he earned $69,816 in NSBA lifetime earnings.
Tom was inducted into the NSBA Hall of Fame in 2006, and two of the horses he was associated with – Hotrodders Jet Set and Delea Siemon - were also named to the famed hall.
Tom is survived by his son, Matthew, of Gainesville, Texas, and daughters Amber Chambers of San Diego, California, and Courtney Moses, of Pilot Point, Texas. NSBA will post arrangements once they become final.